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The Thomas Jackson Letters

Here you will find a unique collection of previously unpublished letters describing facts and feelings about slavery and the civil war as seen from the grass roots level in Reading, Pennsylvania. These detailed, authentic, contemporary reports, most in excellent condition, have all been left to us in the letters of rope-maker Thomas Jackson. The author had been born and spent his early years in England but emigrated to USA in 1829 and spent the rest of his life in Reading. He became a fervent abolitionist and, as the war progressed, wrote back to his cousins asking that they try to get his letters published in the English newspapers. For this reason, many of the letters contain virtually no reference to family matters but concentrate instead on reporting his first hand experiences of the civil war and the injustices of slavery. By following Thomas Jackson’s passionate descriptions, you can now re-live a little history and become a witness through his eyes to some of the key events of the American civil war.  In one way, you might see these letters as propaganda seemingly intended to help persuade the English people to not give their support to the southern confederate states despite the massive importance of Southern cotton to the British economy. His viewpoint was clearly one sided and did not give the slightest consideration to the southern case for secession and state’s rights. His support for the abolition of slavery dominated every aspect of his political life. His obituary in the Reading Times-Dispatch, August 7 1878 declared him to be “an original abolitionist and a warm friend and admirer of Horace Greeley and Thurlow Weed, and other (nationally known) antislavery agitators.” [via Jan Swanbeck, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida]

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